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Documentaries/Conversion Process from Black & White Movies / Documentaries to Color Motion Pictures/ Documentaries.


Color Movie
Color Movie  
Black & White Movie
Black & White Movie  
QUESTION: Dear Mickey

What is/are the Process/es for converting old black & white movies to Color motion picture ?.

There will be so many old movies which were black & white since there were no color video cameras at that time, now if the same old movies are to be watched as Color Picture motion picture/s how this is achieved ?.

For examples :

1. Schindler's List (1993) - Steven Spielberg
2. Charlie Chaplin's movies viz The Kid, The Great Dictator etc
3. Gregory Peck's - The Omen, Roman Holiday etc


As for some above examples, if those same black & white movies are to be converted to be watched as color film movies, what is the technology in photography, film editing etc ?

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

ANSWER: First of all, determine if there was a motivation to make the film in Black and White.  With Shindler's List, that was the goal.  It is critical to understand this. Regarding the Charlie Chaplin movies, color didn't exist at that time.  It's relatively easy to covert to Sepia or other shades of color. The most major question is to determine if the director was really choosing to utilize Black and White or was using it as there was no alternative.

First the film is transferred to video.  Then every aspect of the grey level is studied.Then with the aide of a computer, the color is added. This technique was finally patented in 1991.

Colorization, motion picture, electronic process that uses computers to add color to black-and-white movies, creating new colored videotape versions. Invented by Canadians Wilson Markle and Brian Hunt, the process was first used in 1970 and became viable in the late 1980s. Proponents of colorization argue that it makes old movies more acceptable to the public. The process was enthusiastically backed by Ted Turner, whose 1986 proposal to colorize all the black-and-white films in the MGM archives, which he owns, led to a storm of opposition and to denunciations by such figures as John Huston, Jimmy Stewart, and Woody Allen, among others, who saw colorization is a defilement of the original work. The process became particularly controversial in the late 1980s when such monochrome film classics as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and It's a Wonderful Life were threatened with colorization. Since that time, the demand for colorized films has greatly diminished. Some old television programs, however, continue to appear in colorized versio

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Black & White Movie.
Black & White Movie.  

Color Movie.
Color Movie.  
QUESTION: Dear Mickey

Thank you.

On a personal note can you list us some movies and documentaries which were made Black & White and you would like to convert those Black & White movies and documentaries to Color Movies with reasons ?.

As a example : Would you like to convert all Charlie Chaplin's movies and
documentaries to Color Films ?.

i.e. Can you list me movies and documentaries which were Black & White but you would like to convert those B&W movies to Color movies & Documentaries ?

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

Hello Prashant:

Sorry but I didn't see this question until now. This question is hard for me to answer as I tend to like films, both docs and drama, viewed the way the director originally shot them in.  I specifically shot my re-creations in black and white in my film The Cu Chi Tunnels. I even considered shooting the entire film in Black and White.  There are so many aspects of what color vs. black and white.  In many ways black and white is artistically more powerful than color.  I feel this way about still photos done in black and white as well.

So much of what I'm indicating is preference.  Everyone has a different eye. Today, Adobe After Effects can be used to more easily do the conversion to color. My attitude is to do a scene in color and then screen both the black and white and color and compare them.  Possibly bring a test audience in and then have a discussion with them afterwards. Then make your decision.

Mickey Grant


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Mickey Grant


Currently editing a film I spent this past year shooting in Libya called BURNING GREEN. How to produce, direct, write,edit, and market documentaries This would include which camera is best for a particular project and aspects of how to approach story telling of your documentary. Also, it is becoming even more critical to have a buyer at a major network such as the BBC (they are called Programme Editors there) to interact with during your production. It's really important to know the market and the major players to know who you are.


Over 30 years of working on various aspects of documentaries with my primary function today of shooting and directing them. You can find out a great deal about my films and background at my website at Also, several of my films are on Google Video and can be found by going there and typing Mickey Grant in search. They include my latest film, INJECTION which is 80 minutes and shot on HDV. Also, THE CU CHI TUNNELS, which previously was distributed by BBC Worldwide and has played on major broadcssters in over 50 countries.

In the past I've been a member of many organizations such as NABET union but don't find it necessary in today's market place.


BFA from SMU in 1971 in Film Masters in film from UNT in 1986

Awards and Honors
Gold Award, Best Feature Length Documentary, Houston International Film Festival Golden Star Halo Award, Southern California Motion Picture Council Honorable Mention (twice), Chicago Film Festival Second Place, Sinking Creek Film Festival

Past/Present Clients
HBO, BBC, ZDF, CanalPlus

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